Hate your tattoo? Why it's best to think before you ink

Tattoos are very much a 21st-century form of expression. With one in five of us in the UK having dabbled in some form of body art - from highly-exposed whole sleeves to secret ink spots - we all know someone who has one.

There are few barriers to getting a tattoo and, seemingly, no upper age restrictions. Even Dame Judi Dench celebrated her 81st with an inky gift from her daughter - the words 'Carpe Diem' scrolled across the inside of her wrist.

But what if, having gone through the painful process, we regret our decision - loathing the rose, Chinese symbol or lover's name (and lover!) that adorns the thigh, back or other body part?

In a recent survey at theguardian.com [1], 59 out of 92 people polled on whether they regretted their tattoo said they would not do anything differently. This statistic included those whose inky images 'didn't work out quite as they imagined'.

And, according to a YouGov survey, of the 19% of Brits who have been inked, only 14% of people with tattoos have no regrets.

But, what if the deed is done and we want it removed?

A tattoo is a form of body modification, made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment.

According to Anouska Cassano, a micro-pigmentation practitioner who specialises in chemical tattoo removal, this process should not be undertaken lightly either and warns there is no easy option.

She explains: 'The skin will never be returned to the pre-damaged or tattooed condition. Chemical tattoo removal can be used on any age of tattoo, as long as the skin has healed. It's helpful to know what type of ink has been used and how deeply it has penetrated the skin. It can also be used on any colour, making it an attractive option for some people. One of the benefits of this type of removal is that it can take fewer sessions than other methods, but you need to weigh this up against skin damage.

'Laser removal, on the other hand, is not "colour blind" and you will have different types of configured lasers to target the colour spectrum and this can make it tricky if you have multiple colours within your tattoo.'

Using heat, coloured laser light turn the inks into tiny particles, which are then absorbed into the body via the bloodstream, and excreted via the liver and digestive system.

Other options include:

  • Surgical excision when the tattoo is cut out, leaving a linear scar.
  • Dry needling using saline. The salt acts as an agitator to encourage the body to use its natural rejection.
Anouska adds, for instance, that: 'Chemical tattoo removal recovery takes time, too. For 20-28 days after removal, you cannot get it wet or break the scab so you have to be mindful of the position you sleep if it was on a shoulder, for example, or the possibility of not being able to wear a shoe, if the tattoo was on an ankle and so on. However, there is waterproof camouflage make-up available so don't panic - and do weigh up all the pros and cons before settling on what remedy suits you.'

So, if you're happy with your artistic statement, then you're in the majority - but there is a lot to think about if not and, when it comes to being 'on trend', it's probably best to think before you ink.


  1. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/04/am-i-going-to-regret-my-tattoo-google-answer

Julie Bissett is a freelance journalist. Follow Julie on twitter: @JulesBiscuit


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